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State v. Blackman

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 20, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs March 14, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Marshall County No. 15-CR-132 F. Lee Russell, Judge

         The Defendant, Demarcus Lashawn Blackmun, was indicted by a Marshall County grand jury for the sale and delivery of .5 grams or more of cocaine in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 39-17-417(a)(2) and (3) (2010). He was later convicted by a jury as charged. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the convictions and imposed twelve years' incarceration. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing its sentence. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Michael J. Collins, Assistant Public Defender (at trial and on appeal) and William J. Russell, District Public Defender (at trial), Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Demarcus Lashawn Blackman.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Alexander C. Vey, Assistant Attorney General; Robert J. Carter, District Attorney General; Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General; and Felicia Walkup, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.



         The two day trial in this case occurred on February 22 and 23, 2016. Jessie Prater, a confidential informant, testified that he had prior convictions for aggravated burglary and attempted robbery. He was working for the Drug Task Force (DTF) and receiving $100 per case. He admitted that he previously stole money from the DTF, was immediately caught, and returned the money. On December 23, 2014, the day of the offense, Prater arranged to buy cocaine from the Defendant, who he knew as "Gucci." Around 5 p.m. that afternoon, along with DTF agents Tim Miller and Joe Ramirez, Prater went to the back of a Napa Auto Parts store in Lewisburg County, Tennessee to arrange the drug purchase from the Defendant. Prater already had the Defendant's cell phone number and called him to discuss where the drug purchase was to take place. Three audio recordings of the telephone conversations between Prater and the Defendant were admitted into evidence and played for the jury. Prater identified Defendant's voice on each of the recordings. He also identified the Defendant in court as the person from whom he purchased the drugs.

         Prater arranged to purchase a gram of powder cocaine for $100 from the Defendant. After the phone call, Prater and Agent Ramirez left the store. Agent Ramirez searched Prater to ensure that he did not have any money or illegal drugs on his person. Prior to leaving, Agent Ramirez provided Prater with a digital recorder and five $20 bills, totaling $100, for the purpose of buying the drugs. They proceeded to Summit Apartments. Upon arrival, they pulled to the back of the apartments and waited. The Defendant walked out of a building, and Prater approached him and gave him the money. Prater testified that the Defendant then gave him the powder cocaine. Prater went back to the truck and gave Agent Ramirez the drugs. Prater said that the Defendant was with a white female. Prater told the agents that the woman "looked like a girl [he] knew named Jennifer Bryant." She was later determined to be Heather Rodriguez. He later clarified that he did not misidentify the girl, but told agents the wrong name.

         Following the drug transaction, Prater observed the Defendant put the money in his pocket. Prater was searched before and after the drug transaction. He received $100 that day for assisting the DTF with the drug transaction.

         Jose Rameriz, a sheriff's deputy with the Marshall County Sheriff's Department, testified that he was assigned to the DTF at the time of the instant offense. He worked with Jesse Prater as a confidential informant in this case. His testimony was consistent with the testimony of Prater. He drove Prater to purchase the drugs and described the search of Prater before and after the drug transaction. He said that Prater was within his sight the entire time during the drug transaction. The money he gave to Prater was prerecorded for the purpose of a controlled buy. He observed Prater touch hands with the individual involved with the transaction. He recovered the drugs from Prater, placed them in a sealed evidence envelope, and turned them over to Director Tim Miller of the DTF. The envelope containing the drugs was admitted into evidence at trial as Exhibit 2. Deputy Rameriz said that the drugs had been confirmed to be cocaine by an independent lab. He was unable to identify the person involved in the drug transaction with Prater.

         Timothy Lane, Director of the DTF, testified that he was the evidence custodian for the DTF. He was responsible for all the evidence collected in the field by other DTF officers. He said he controlled the only set of keys for the evidence room. He identified Exhibit 2 as the evidence turned in to him by Deputy Rameriz. He said that the evidence was then turned in to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) for analysis. After it was analyzed, he picked it up and brought it to court.

         Timothy Miller, Assistant Director of the DTF, testified that he supervised the officers involved in the instant controlled drug transaction. He was at the Napa Auto store prior to the drug transaction and was familiar with Prater. He was also responsible for ensuring that the phone calls between Prater and the Defendant were recorded. He otherwise testified consistently with Prater and Ramirez as to the events surrounding the controlled drug buy from the Defendant. He observed a hand-to-hand exchange between Prater and the individual, later identified as the Defendant. After the drug transaction was completed, he called another agent to stop the car the Defendant was riding in as a passenger. A white female was driving the car. The car was followed and did not ...

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